There’s a tremendous, oft sadly neglected richness in the English language all of us should use more often. I’m not referring to throwing maximum verbiage around in an effort to appear smart; rather, appreciating how even simple phrases can hold surprising depth. Case in point: someone is getting, or have gotten, the best of you.

The most common association tied to this saying is someone has bettered, or bested, you. He or she ran faster, jumped higher, got the promotion you sought, snagged the one your heart longed for, etc. He or she won, you lost, and you will not be receiving a consolation prize, make-up call, or participation trophy. Suck it up, buttercup. The next competition starts now.

Another implementation exists for someone getting the best of you. Namely, giving someone the best you have to offer: your experience, your support, your love. Sometimes this is gratefully received. Many times … well, not so much.

There are certain things we learn, or at least hopefully learn, as we pass through the years. A prime example of this is coming to grips with how we are best advised accepting the fact that we should not expect respect for our anger, this coming into play the first time during our tender years any of us throw a temper tantrum without reaping the hoped for reward. Unless a spanking was that for which we had a honkering.

We also learn, or should learn, to not expect respect for our tears, or reciprocation for our love. These are far more difficult to swallow. We are taught from the beginning to respect others, to honor the heralded awesome power of love, and that true love always triumphs while conquering all and overcoming all obstacles. Yet through bitter and often embittering experience we learn how love is often impotent, incapable of swaying others in any direction let alone one which we desire. Those who do not learn this, such as starry-eyed women unshakable in their pursuit of utterly undesirable men believing they can transform jerks into jewels, invariably have their ship of hopes dashed against reality’s rocks. You’d think this would be sufficient to teach us, but far too often we embody insanity by attempting the exact same thing while anticipating different results. The Biblical truism that pride goes before a fall is not exclusively reserved for the outwardly arrogant. It also applies to those of us who, while outwardly modest and/or well-intentioned, sadly overestimate our own ability.

It hurts when love isn’t returned. The illustration of a rejected Savior is hard to understand until we encounter a one-sided love of our own. The other person doesn’t look at you in a special way. He or she doesn’t soften when you’re around. He or she isn’t interested in a relationship on any level save perhaps that of casual acquaintance, one quickly forgotten the moment close proximity is no longer in effect. Perhaps the person does allow you to approach them, but even then only within his or her strictly defined and absolute, non-negotiable parameters. Held at arm’s length? Most definitely. Held in each other’s arms? Never. And yes, it makes life a living hell. An accurate description, for hell’s torment is not fire and brimstone, but rather separation from love.

The illustration in Scripture’s most misunderstood and misapplied chapter states that when I was a child, I spoke, thought, and acted like a child; in adulthood laying these childish things aside. It seems strange to think, believe, and act on the notion that there are times when laying love aside is an act of maturity. More accurately, not so much setting love itself on the shelf but learning how to be at peace with the fact others can and will disregard your love for them.

It hurts when love isn’t returned. There is no escaping, no denying the pain. If there is anything good to be drawn from these times, it is from the empathy gained for those also suffering; and how it makes more real our need to embrace — more accurately, allow ourselves to be embraced by — the nail-scarred hands belonging to the Man of Sorrows well acquainted with grief. He knows. He understands. He comforts. And He never rejects our love.

Never.

Many, many times someone getting the best of you is rooted not in their besting you, but rather you giving your best to someone who throws your best away. Forgiving those who have wrongly abused you is brutally difficult. But, it is the highest level of giving your best, one in which we have Christ’s hand on our shoulder as He says, “I know the feeling.”

NOTE: This post was first published in abbreviated form at the author’s personal blog.

In a world where hatred and horror are marching in lockstep, we can all use a good laugh. With this in mind, below is an unsent, albeit sorely tempted to do so, response to an actual customer survey. It must be noted the views and opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the writer and in no fashion speak on behalf of, or represent, the employer of said writer. (As if it isn’t obvious.)

Dear Mr. C(remainder of name redacted):

Thank you for your customer survey response regarding your recent visit to, and purchase from, our store.

We deeply apologize for the store and staff not meeting your expectations, this surmised from both your written comments and your grading the store as a one on all scale of one to ten questions. We readily confess this comes as something of a surprise, given that since late last year, through the course of several dozen returned surveys we had not once received an overall score lower than eight. We appreciate you, unlike the aforementioned several dozen misguided individuals, setting the record straight.

Addressing a specific point made in your response, namely how the store carries far too much Superman and Transformers product, a quick calculation reveals out of the 448 feet of linear shelf space available the two toy lines mentioned presently occupy eight feet. We are grateful for you opening our eyes to how this 1.79% waste of display area is entirely too high, and are presently carrying out a detailed action aimed at reducing this to 1.78%. Regrettably, you did not detail what should be done with this newly available space, this leaving us to our own painfully inadequate devices commonly referred to as “what sells.” Which, to our astonishment and we confidently say yours, includes an alarmingly high amount of Superman and Transformer toys.

Concerning your grievance over the survey containing too many questions, we are compelled to note the survey is run by a third party and therefore is not entirely under our control. However, we have communicated your concerns to the survey provider, and have been assured it is hard at work on a new version which will contain nothing but one emoji happy face and one emoji frowny face. This will greatly reduce the time and effort required to complete the survey, as compared to its present seventeen scale of one to ten grueling questions.

We could not help but to notice in addition to the two items you did purchase, you are a member of our rewards club for frequent shoppers. Given your disdain for our store, the only possible conclusion is you are suffering from retail self-flagellation, a/k/a punishing yourself by shopping at a store you detest. This can result in dangerous symptoms such as monetary loss and a sharp increase in hypocrisy. We urge you to exercise maximum caution and watch for these signs.

In conclusion, we again deeply apologize for our store and ourselves. We hope you will give us another try, especially encouraging you to visit our board game area and pick up a copy of The Game of Life to remedy a noticeable deficiency in this area.

Sincerely,
Someone At The Store You Hate

Do people really want the truth?

If you spend any period of time cruising “conservative” sites dedicated to dissecting pop culture, or “neutral” sites dissecting of culture with one or more conservative writers on staff, the answer comes rapidly. It’s no. To be more precise, the aforementioned writers have little if any interest in proclaiming, via pointing out, truth.

This may seem like a strange summation. Didn’t the late, great Andrew Breitbart say politics is downstream from culture? Aren’t these people, at least in part, attempting to embody this truism by discussing the latest entertainment efforts and societal swings mainstream infomedia declares are where it’s at, or at least should be? Sure. But it is a very, very small and utterly ineffective part.

To slightly paraphrase Paul’s snap to the church in Corinth, said writers are looking only at the surface of things. They see the obvious – the blockbuster movie, the hot entertainer, the even hotter social trend as deemed by whichever upper crust publication wants some free publicity this week via prefabricated “controversy.” They comment, they argue, they strive to score maximum points with the Konservative Kool Kidz Klub. All very nice. And all utterly meaningless in terms of influencing pop culture’s course. Genuine influence comes not from adding a me too with a conservative view. It comes from exploring and promoting the unknown that is worthy of attention.

It’s not like there are no opportunities to genuinely impact people through elements generally associated with pop culture, given how its more heralded items seldom pack the punch many believe they hold. The great movie icons of recent decades – Star Wars, the ongoing spate of superhero movies – have worked their way into the popular lexicon, but outside of the freakishly obsessed few their societal impact is nonexistent. Books and their authors fly high for fifteen minutes and then disappear over the horizon. Heard anyone discuss The Bridges of Madison County or Life of Pi lately? An argument can be made that the Chinese water torture known as network television has moved the morality and mores gauge needles to the left; Will & Grace did much to normalize homosexuality in the public eye, and every time I hear a five year old loudly exclaim “oh my god” in reference to most every item in my toy store I, uh, ‘thank’ the writers of Friends. Pop music is both omnipresent and impactless, streamed today and sent packing tomorrow. When an album (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles) first released fifty years ago sells more physical copies than any other album, all’s said needing to be said concerning current music’s place in current society.

Maybe follow Sgt. Pepper’s lead and find music from the past that still holds value today?

Time to shift gears a bit. As today’s greatest songwriter Terry Scott Taylor recently sang, there’s not a holy man who doesn’t know grief well, or thinks the road to heaven doesn’t pass through hell. This truth is embodied in how throughout Christianity’s history, many believers have found their greatest solace not in the New Testament but rather in a chapter written by the Old Testament mystic prophet Isaiah. Written hundreds of years before Christ’s passion and death on the cross, Isaiah’s description of the coming Messiah as a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief, has resonated throughout the millennia with those suffering.

Twenty-two years and 22,000 light years removed from today’s Christian music scene, featuring endless recyclings of endless clichés about a good good father, with his band Adam Again the late pioneer of Christian alternative rock Gene Eugene released Perfecta which sadly turned out to be the band’s final album before Eugene’s death due to an aneurism in 2000. There’s a Kickstarter campaign currently underway to finally release it on vinyl as well as remastered CD. Not that there’s a need for cause aside from its dark brilliance to revisit this sadly unknown work, but it’s as good of a reason as any.

If the measure of an album’s potential impact on individuals, who in turn influence society, can be determined by said album’s rawness stripping away all emotional pretense and posturing, then Perfecta would be an instant game changer even today. Laying atop a foundation of simultaneously jangling and snarling distorted guitars, Eugene’s grainy razored vocals ripped through stories most Christian artists wouldn’t dare touch: failed relationships, substance abuse, and Leonard Cohen. For starters. When during the song “Relapse” he cried ‘believe me, I’m fine,’ you know the song’s character was anything but. In “All You Lucky People,” Eugene’s resigned alienation from the Christian music that at best held him at arms length and usually avoided him at all costs spilled out:

Won’t you give me your secret
And allow me a tale to sell
To the guests of the guilty at the gates of hell
I’m after it
I’m after it
And you’ll know
That I keep looking at all you lucky people coming around to say hello
Hello

It’s somewhat doubtful you’ll be hearing this during worship time next Sunday.

Perfecta isn’t a collection of ruminations about lost faith. Rather, it collects tales of what happens when faith gets stomach punched. A lot. Despite this, faith remains, beaten down but not defeated. There is life beyond life’s insidious heartbreaks. There will be blood. But there is also the bloody Cross.

It is Perfecta, and albums like it, by artists and bands such as Gene Eugene and Adam Again, that tell life changing truths. This is the primal scream at pop culture’s center, one often obscured by drek and dross yet still present. If the writers covering pop culture from the right side truly wish to make an impact, they will throttle back on the 378th dissertation this week about Wonder Woman and start actively seeking out that, and those, whose creation can effect change in lieu of rambling on about the latest layer of frosting atop an already oversugared cake.

Last week, most of the world gasped in horror at the sight of children in Manchester, most of them girls, being blown apart for the crime of attending a pop concert. I say most; the satanic jihadists celebrated even as some among the oh so pure Konservative Kool Kidz Klub sneered how Ariana Grande had it coming because she’s said and done stupid stuff, and by default her audience as well for not knowing they’re not supposed to support someone not bearing the official seal of approval. Because, after all, every eight year old girl should be full up on politics.

The latter losers notwithstanding – and they have no place standing with anyone who has a heart – the terrorist attack was only one side of the war on children, specifically girls; sudden, brutal. There is another face of the war against children usually hidden from sight: the slow death of those ritually abused by adults. Be it sexual, this occasionally bubbling to the surface when another child pornography aficionado and/or sex trafficker is arrested, physical, emotional/mental/spiritual; it lives among us and almost always out of sight. As are its victims, who either put on a forced happy face to hide the truth, disappear from public view, or wind up in a morgue unless their lifeless body is thrown out with the trash. The abuse often doesn’t end at childhood’s end, as the obscenely high number of abused wives and girlfriends can attest once the swelling from their latest bouquet of physical or emotional/mental/spiritual bruises subsides. This noted, it is of the children this post speaks.

This is the world musician Randy Rose exposes in his latest offering Songs For The Ritually Abused. Rose, along with his brother Roger, is fondly remembered by hardcore Christian rock fans from his days in synth to hard rock Mad At The World. Currently working with his own band bearing his last name, Rose successfully went to the Kickstarter well last year to finance a new recording he promised would be anything but, well, roses and rose-colored stained glass windows. A few hiccups hindered the release schedule, but the album is now out. It is raw and real.

"Songs For The Ritually Abused" by Rose
“Songs For The Ritually Abused” by Rose

Musically, for those unaware of Rose’s sound the best comparison would be to think of Muse with the melodrama turned down and the snarl turned up to 11. Melody is often delivered with the business end of a fuzztone sledgehammer. There are quiet moments, but for the most part Songs For The Ritually Abused is pounding mid-tempo fury. It’s not metal nor goth, but fans of each genre as well as those attracted by anthems will find plenty to sink their teeth into even as the music bares its own teeth.

Lyrically, the only words that accurately capture the album’s horror and hope are its own:

You were ritually abused…battered, bloodied and bruised
But Jesus is calling your name and Girl, you’ll never be the same
Tears stain my cheek for the one who couldn’t speak
Sweet little Girl…

I know everything’s gonna be fine
Girl, I know He’ll wipe the tears from your eyes
So close your eyes and dream of things
Close your eyes and dream of things
So close your eyes and dream of things that
You thought that you’d never see

Beautiful Girl…

Havilah, your time has come
And now you get to speak…

You can speak.

For example. Other songs cut even deeper, exposing and calling out the monsters who abuse children while proclaiming Christ’s love in action for victims. It is a fearsome, brutally effective tour de force.

Songs For The Ritually Abused will not make anyone want to hit the dance floor, and it’s extremely doubtful the average Ariana Grande fan will find much, if anything, here to her liking. That said, it is precisely for her fans seeking solace in her music as an escape from their private hell that this album was made. If it moves people to action confronting this evil, or serves as a lifeline for those unwillingly described in its words, with this album Randy Rose has accomplished God’s work.

The album is available at Amazon, CD Baby, direct from the record label, iTunes, and Rose’s website.

This past weekend, the mysterious yet not mythical Mrs. Dude and I took some much needed time away from our respective workplaces to visit the mice, ducks, dogs, chipmunks, and other critters. In other words, Disneyland.

Given how we had an extra day, rather than take the quicker, fiercely duller I-5 freeway we opted for the more coastal I-101. The 101 mostly follows the trail left by Spanish Franciscans during the late 1700s and early 1800s as they established twenty-one missions stretching from San Diego to Solano, all of which still stand in some fashion.

As the 101 enters the lower reaches of central California, it goes through a lengthy stretch of mostly gentle hills, dotted or covered in evergreen oak trees with grasses and occasionally flowers underneath. In a few places man has unobtrusively made his present felt with the occasional vineyard or orchard, but for the most part everything is how nature has presently left things arranged. It is beautiful, peaceful, and pastoral.

It is also utterly deceiving.

The gently rolling hills, their surface worn to smooth roundness by millennia of rain and growth, thoroughly hide how whenever one travels through them one does so atop a ticking bomb. The San Andreas and ancillary earthquake faults lie beneath, their convulsive thrusting over countless years having formed the scarps and protrusions that we now see in gently sloped, innocent form. It is not a question of if the next great earthquake will strike this land, or north or south of here, but rather when, a question science answers with a supremely confident shrug. Save building upon and anchoring to a solid foundation, one that remains in place even as the structure it supports has sufficient flexibility to enable the passing through of energy expended whenever tectonic plates throw a temper tantrum, there is no possible preparation for when the earth forcibly reminds us we are not in charge.

That said, once proper preparations for the inevitable are made there is no excuse for not finding healing in the hills’ beauty. The moment one conforms his or her thinking to what the hills are, this as compared to what one wishes the hills to be, clarity ensues.

Clarity; seeing what is and responding accordingly in lieu of acting based on preferred reality, is a sadly rare commodity these days. Humanity has done an excellent job of convincing itself its perception is indeed reality. Self-identification has become sacrosanct. Few dare tell others they are not who they think they are. You are an expert witness, a political earthshaker because you say you are? Of course you are. Meanwhile, the real earthshaker lays beneath its benign disguise, waiting for a time of its own choosing to reveal its fearsome power.

The time has come to stop pretending and start living. Let the impotent rage and peacock posing go. Being a social media warrior is no more noble than being a social justice warrior. We are not shifting the dialogue; we are not changing policy. We’re just not.

What we can do is change culture from the inside out. Loving family and friends, tending to one another in heart, mind, and soul; this is achievable. We can preach, in word and far more importantly deed, Christ crucified and risen. Let us embrace truth as we live among the lovely and violent hills, practicing our love and faith while preparing for the inevitable upheaval we can neither prevent nor predict.

I never knew Bob Owens. Given how my Konservative Kool Kidz Klub application was stamped Return To Sender years ago, this is no surprise. He was one of the early conservative new media types, first blogging and later developing a more traditional media business model. He was quite the Second Amendment aficionado. Owens was a family man; wife, three kids. He was known and loved, personally and professionally, by many within CNM, including several people I know as friends.

Earlier this week he left a cryptic note on Facebook about being a coward and a failure.

He then blew his brains out.

An overriding theme in the reactions to Owens’ death is that no one, not even those closest to him, had the slightest inkling this was a possibility. There was nothing in his demeanor, nothing in his words and/or actions, giving any indication he was troubled unto death by his own hand. Owens’ suicide has been met with complete astonishment. The words from those who knew him have both poured out and fallen in shocked silence.

Being one who knows the dark side as something utterly removed from George Lucas’ film franchise, I speak with uncomfortable authority about depression. It is an irrational, illogical assassin; the father of lies’ most hideous, insidious lie. It blinds its victims to reality, convincing them there is no hope when in fact hope abounds. Depression tells the irreplaceable all would fare better without their presence spoiling life’s soup. It declares self-destruction’s broad road as the only road, doing its damnedest to block salvation’s narrow path. Depression is Satan’s scalpel, seeking only to cut out life itself instead of cutting out the cancer it forms on the soul.

While there can be, at least in some cases in part, an understanding of why someone would take their own life, suicide stands in direct opposition to God’s will and Word. No one has the right to dismiss God’s gift of life to us and/or destroy the Holy Spirit’s temple He made for us in His image. The forgiveness made available to each of us through Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross is never a license to sin. While faith alone cannot always completely counteract depression’s lies, it is a vital element in the fight. There are no echoes of throne checks or any other variation on “are you really saved” in asking someone not just how they are, but how is their soul. This said, God alone truly knows the soul. He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He will have compassion. We are His voice and hands on this earth; we must act and speak accordingly.

John Donne was right; no man is an island and the death of one diminishes us all. It should make us stop and take stock of priorities. Nothing exposes our online world’s triviality, the futility of our pursuit within our phonebooth kingdoms echo chamber of hyperlink and hashtag love as validation, like staring at a loved ones’ headstone. Today, now, is the time to preach in word and deed Christ crucified and risen to family, friends, and strangers alike.

I sympathize with Bob Owens’ friends. I grieve for his family. I pray God will have mercy on his soul. And I pray all the more the next Bob Owens among us will never be known as the next Bob Owens because someone reached out, and the person reached cried out to Jesus for the strength to live.

A couple of days ago, Breitbart published a story concerning how, in recent months, some Oreo cookie devotees have complained the flavor has changed, and not for the better. Said story insinuated the reason behind this, if in fact this be truth, is Mondelez, parent company of Nabisco (maker of Oreos) having moved production of said sandwich cookie to a plant in Mexico. Maybe the manufacturing process has crossbred with Pelon Pelo Rico. But I digress.

The story includes this as part of its case making effort:

Some companies are even willing to admit there is a difference in product quality — Fender offers Stratocaster guitars made in Mexico at a much lower price than their made in America product line — recognizing a difference in quality and materials.

At this point, I am reminded of a moment involving Drew Remenda, former NHL coach who currently works as an analyst for Edmonton Oilers televised games; previously he spent many years doing the same for the San Jose Sharks. During the latter stint, for a couple of seasons Remenda hosted an after-game call-in radio show. One evening, as a caller was railing against a Sharks player Remenda liked, he had had enough and cut off the caller with a simple statement: “You do not know what you are talking about. I do.”

Now, I play guitar. While I hardly give Eric Clapton anything to lose sleep over, I get by. My electric guitar brand of choice? Fender. The sound, the feel, the look … love ’em. As have other true guitar legends – the aforementioned Mr. Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and multitudes more.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to own a few Fender guitars. Some were basic models, some were upper end. Some were made in Fender’s factory in Ensenada, Baja California. Some were made in Fender’s factory in Corona, California. All had, and have, one unifying factor beside the name:

They were all top notch instruments.

The only major difference between American and Mexican models of the Stratocaster and Telecaster is the former having twenty-two frets, whereas the Mexican ones bear the traditional Fender twenty-one fret neck. They are made from the same kinds of, and quality, wood. Many share identical electronics. They have the same design. They work the same way. In short, they are all Fender guitars.

Yes, most of the high end models are made in Corona. There are also high end, superb models made in Ensenada, some with features unavailable on any American made model. And yes, the Mexican models almost always cost less than their American counterparts. Because of lesser quality materials used in the manufacturing process? No. Shortcuts in manufacturing? No. Poorer overall quality? No.

Try significantly lower labor costs.

That is all.

It is irksome when someone purporting to be a journalist, particularly one writing for a site devoted to exposing fake news, makes a false assumption in order to push a meme. It spreads incorrect information. It reinforces the stereotype of conservative websites perpetuating falsehoods and stereotypes. It is an unfunny joke. And it needs to stop. However, as long as partisan hackery takes precedence over professional journalism, it won’t.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got some guitar to play.

This weekend, two of my favorite veteran Christian bands (The Choir and Sweet Comfort Band) are playing some of their rare concert dates in Southern California. Great, awesome, and wonderful … for those able to attend. Due to family work commitments, namely an annual inventory, this will be the one weekend of the year I and she who is my wife are absolutely unable to traipse down the freeway and visit SoCal. No concerts for me. Very disappointing. Pales in comparison to so many other full-fledged hammer blows in life; regardless, very disappointing. Obviously no personally aimed conspiracy against me. But still, I’ve asked, of no one in particular, why.

We who believe are taught two things starting at our spiritual infancy: never judge anyone, and never ask why. We should never judge because we too are guilty of something, and we should never ask why as the answer is always “because God” and who is the creation to question anything under the Creator’s roof? Toss in a few Scriptural Cliff Notes, and hey presto! You are good to go, and if not it is all on you. Where is your faith?

The problem with this mindset, aside from the minor detail how it ignores a whole lot of Biblical observations about what to expect in life, is that it automatically disparages the human condition in a manner taught nowhere by Jesus or anyone else within the pages of Sola Scriptura. We are supposed to speak up when someone is messing up so they will get back on track. We are allowed to ask why, and the answer is not always “because God.” Sometimes, there is no apparent answer save silence.

The days will come, if they have not already arrived, when you realize you hold nothing but a fragile lifeline woven from a tattered thread of faith growing increasingly frayed. You have a laundry list of whys, and answers seem to be nowhere. You wonder if it’s possible to get ahead in life without being a self-fellating talentless walking sack of rancid, arrogant steer manure. You wonder not when, but if you will leave the unemployment line. You see beautiful inside and out members of the opposite sex either throw themselves into relationships doomed from the start or throw themselves firmly into the arms of one of the aforementioned self-fellating talentless walking sacks of rancid, arrogant steer manure while your Saturday night dates come in a box from Sunkist. You observe how the popular girl or boy shamelessly monetizes their loss while you are told to shut up about your grief. You ask why, and based on the non-existent answers you wonder if God so much as takes a message and will get back to you.

There are times I for sure wonder.

Yet, somehow, I hang on.

Some don’t. Some walk away from the faith. Some walk away from their lives. Some walk away from life itself.

Please, do not do these things.

Seek out the open, the scarred, the ones still bleeding who are not ashamed to admit. Seek out, embrace one another, and help carry one another through the living no man’s land life can often transform itself into in a moment.

Admit the hurt; confess the pain; reveal the scars. Help one another. Let them help you. Ask questions. Just don’t quit.

Please, don’t quit.

And never quit asking why.

Chances are I wouldn’t recognize Susan Slusser if she passed me by on the street. I’ve seen her photo online and her on local sports television a few times, but given how I’m the living embodiment of jokingly stating the reason retail workers wear nametags is so we can remember our own, it should come as no surprise I’d most likely miss her if she was tap dancing in front of me. In a duet with Stomper.

Ms. Slusser is a superb sports reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle. Her main assignment since 1999 has been my beloved (albeit sometimes bedraggled) Oakland A’s. She writes with crisp, clean accuracy, covering the team’s ups and downs while drawing little if any attention to herself. It’s said the best referees and umpires are the ones you never notice due to their calling the game correctly. Similarly, in today’s world where reporting and opinion are far too often mixed in an unwieldy, unsatisfactory in both areas whole, Ms. Slusser is admirable in keeping the two separate, never tipping her hand or interjecting herself into the story. She is informative, in depth, and invisible.

Like most every media person in any field these days, Ms. Slusser has a social media presence. Unlike most every media person in any field these days, using said social media as something other than sheer self-promotion she engages with her readers, or at least the ones with a few synapses firing in coordinated fashion. I’ve exchanged a few tweets with her in recent months, and she has been unfailingly polite and informative. In like fashion, I have always addressed her with completely deserved compliments, respect, and consideration, often looking for a way to insert something she hopefully finds chuckle-worthy into the conversation. I gotta be me, after all.

I’m quite certain that Ms. Slusser and I voted for different Presidential candidates last November. Which is fine. Politics aren’t everything; I’d much rather chat about what the A’s are doing to address their defensive deficiencies or my beloved classic Christian rock artists. I don’t need to debate every policy and platform with everyone. Sometimes – most all of the time, in fact – I’d rather find common ground and not mix politics with everything else. I’d rather enjoy a ballgame. I also figured out quite some time ago that no one in Washington DC was refreshing any given blog site where I write fifty times a day, trembling with anticipation of my next great pronouncement so they’d know which policies and platforms to pursue. Something others, given their predilection for incessant self-righteous babble, have apparently yet to learn. But I digress.

There are many on my side of the political aisle who live for open combat with one and all in mainstream media. It works for them. It generates heat; it creates a scenario in which the fearless flamethrower, backed by gallant retweeters and such, speaks truth to power hiding behind corporate walls. Makes for great spectacle. Hail the conquering snarknado master!

If someone isn’t doing their job properly because of implied or overt bias, fine. Call them out. They deserve it. But with this duly noted, is it impossible to praise, and treat the same way you and I wish to be treated, reporters who regardless of their political beliefs do work of the highest quality? Or for that matter, members of any given profession?

Certainly engaging people as, well, people is far less exciting and attention-drawing than treating others as raw meat designated for tossing to your wolfpack fan club. But does the latter genuinely accomplish anything? Sure, you look like the tough guy or mucha macha chica on Twitter et al. You’ve also alienated, probably permanently, a whole lot of people you’re supposed to be trying to reach for your cause who, astonishing as it may seem, aren’t that interested in your totem pole positioning within their echo chamber. Why not for once try being respectful to another human being possessing the same dignity and worth as you? If it doesn’t work, you did the right thing. But if it does …

… you too can exchange tweets with the Susan Slussers of this world.

Had a bit of a health scare yesterday. Prepped for my closing shift; set out the door for my daily dose of public transportation thrills … and had to turn back toward home a few minutes into my usual twenty minute walk, as shortness of breath and overwhelming fatigue took center stage. Most unusual, in that I’ve never had the slightest trace of asthma. Caught my breath and a bit of energy some time after very slowly walking home, but definitely not how I’d planned to start the day.

Thinking back on it, I’m still not sure what set off the incident. What it accomplished was reminding me of a few facts, one being that I’m now entering the season of life where one need be mindful of family history regarding heart attacks, namely the plentiful nature thereof. Obviously it wasn’t one, given how I’m presently present, but still. Faithfully take your blood pressure medicine (I do) and watch the stress (okay, so I’m batting .500).

Without either becoming morbid or frantically running around like a moron trying to accomplish all my life goals before lunch tomorrow, it’s good to have a sense of urgency regarding what needs to be done. Have I chatted with that friend lately. Have I both told and shown those I love the love I hold for them. Am I actively fulfilling the Great Commission to tell others of Christ’s love in word and more importantly deed. These things I can do; indeed, these things I must do despite my rumbling bumbling stumbling fumbling humanity. If these together are not the central theme, life is an unbalanced gyroscope.

This ties into why I constantly beat the classic Christian rock drum. It’s not a job; I haven’t seen a dime for writing about it since my last paying gig freelancing for a music magazine in 1994, and I will never sell enough copies of my book to recoup expenses, let alone earn anything. Rather, it’s because I have to. It’s my obligation. Everything else, including (gasp!) politics, runs second.

Yes, it’s irksome when I see writers who, all false modesty aside, can’t hold a candle to me endlessly promote themselves while receiving lavish praise for their latest two bit entry in the great conservative new media circle jerk. They don’t change anything. They don’t influence public policy. They do precious little education save for the truly uninformed. That said, it is what it is, to resurrect that extraordinarily overused expression of some years ago. Far better to do what it is I am called to do, letting others deal with the consequences of their own actions.

There are times when we need a reminder – say, a health scare – taking us back where we need to be and back to what we need to be doing. I can’t change the world. I can’t, or at the least haven’t to date, convince nearly enough people to listen to and actively support music designed and dedicated as God’s language. But these things I can do: what I’m supposed to, and what I am able to do. So may it ever be.